State pledges more for enhancement project

By Hank Lohmeyer

The Cedaredge Town Board on Sept. 7 agreed to an offer from CDOT to contribute up to $75,000 more toward eventual completion of the Main Street Enhancement Project. Of the total $75,000, the town will be required to contribute 20 percent, or about $15,000, it was stated at the meeting.

Jason Huddle of CDOT noted that a recent town attempt to re-allocate project costs by rebidding construction produced instead a cost overrun. CDOT offered to contribute another $43,805 in federal money to the project to cover the rebid overrun, plus an additional $31,195 to cover costs of "construction management" services. Construction work on the highway beautification project won't begin until next year and will have an April 1 completion date, Mayor Gene Welch said. Any additional cost overruns beyond the amount agreed upon last week will be sole responsibility of the town, Huddle stated.

Welch expressed appreciation to CDOT for its unusual decision to add additional funding to the project. "Otherwise, [the agreement] wouldn't have happened," he said.

Trustee Bob Michael asked about contingency funds for possible cost overruns in the future. "Hopefully, [the additional funds] will be enough to complete the project, but there are no guarantees," said Huddle.

CDOT had presented the town with three options for dealing with the latest overruns on the years-delayed project. Option A was the one accepted by trustees. Option B would have reset the entire project to square one and begun with an entirely new design and bidding process. Option C would have cancelled the project altogether requiring the town to refund about $75,000 in federal dollars it has already received and spent on design and engineering.

Two town residents, Jim Atkinson and Steve Pierce, were at the meeting and questioned officials about the project. Atkinson asked detailed technical questions about the bid process. He asked for explanations as to why option B was not chosen. Town and CDOT officials explained they feared that an entirely new project design/bid process would end up costing even more than the present one.

Pierce noted the exceptionally high percentage of project costs going to design and engineering work. He pointed out that the cost of design and engineering services -- stated as 20 to 25 percent or even higher -- is far more than is customary on construction projects. CDOT officials said the normal percentage for the agency's work on projects is in the 10 percent maximum range. Pierce said the costs should have "thrown a red flag" for project managers. A representative from design consultant SGM was present. He said that one always hopes for a smooth project, but that they "sometimes go bad."

According to CDOT's offer, the total project cost will now be $456,250. Construction cost is $362,895. And, 25.7 percent of that amount or $93,355, is going for design work. The project is being paid for by an 80 percent federally funded program that requires a 20 percent town contribution.

Huddle told the town board that choosing one of the three options presented was entirely the town's decision. He said that CDOT would support which ever decision the board made, and also that the agency was willing to proceed with the project and complete it.

Despite CDOT's pledge to provide more money to the project, trustee Ray Hanson observed pointedly that the many problems and delays on the project had their origins in CDOT's failure to record its right-of-way on the east side of the roadway in 1960 when Highway 65 improvements were done. Since the project is funded with federal money, unrecorded right-of-way would disqualify all or part of the project for the U.S. government taxpayer dollars. Therefore while the entire intersection at Main Street and Grand Mesa Drive was originally the project's objective, now only the west side of the intersection is involved.

At a previous meeting on the issue, Hanson explained his support for the Enhancement Project included the hope that it would eventually help provide a new sidewalk from downtown to Cedaredge Elementary School. It was stated at last week's meeting that the project as now constituted will not do that, and that extending the sidewalk to the school will require funding from some other source.